Franchise Candidates: A Changed Mindset

This article was originally posted on August 13, 2009 as Franchise Candidates: A Changing Mindset. Well, I guess we can revise the title slightly to reflect candidates’ current views – A Changed Mindset. Nevertheless, the article may be even more relevant today as franchising attempts to rebound from the economic downturn and continues to explore more viable lead generation strategies that will attract today’s franchise candidate. Many continue to explore social media and have realized its position as an integral and effective component of these strategies… of course, when utilized according to a plan.

caution-01A look at today’s franchise candidates will reveal they are more sophisticated, better educated, and more technologically advanced than ever before. In addition, and even more so because of the economic downturn, they are extremely cautious.

Today’s candidates are spending more time researching opportunities, and doing so at a much slower pace. In order to be diligent in the process, more time is spent online pouring through page after page of information, constantly bookmarking, and moving back and forth from new information to saved information. They’re comparing notes with other franchise candidates on social networking sites. As well, they’re gaining invaluable insight monitoring online discussion groups and forums.

Ultimately, today’s franchise candidate desires and needs to be certain the franchise opportunity is as close to perfect for his or her situation, as humanly possible. In the past, and especially after previous recessions, franchise candidates took their capital gains and invested in a franchise opportunity. Many times leaving the principal investment untouched. There was a sense of throwing caution to the wind because they were investing profits. Many times ungodly profits, at least by today’s standards. Does anyone remember when money markets kicked out 17% profit margins?

Unfortunately, many individuals looking at franchise opportunities today are looking at things differently. They have to. Many are transitioning corporate executives staring at the back end of illustrious careers trying to squeak out just ten more years before retirement. Facing the challenge of younger talent, new technology, and a rapidly changing business environment, many opt to “buy” a job and explore franchising and small business ownership.

What Changed?

Here’s the difference between today’s recession, and of those in the past. As huge fortunes have been lost, and large gains have not been realized in current financial markets, today’s candidates are forced to invest all or part of their remaining nest egg in order to enter the world of business ownership. Of course, everyone knows and fully understand the risks involved in owning a business. But in yesterday’s business environment, many franchisees and business owners were “gambling” with profits.

Certainly, no one wanted to lose money in a business venture. But, many had fallback positions with funds still in retirement accounts and of course, if they had to, employment. For many of today’s candidates, failure is not an option because fallback opportunities are fast becoming non-existent. Actually, I believe many of today’s candidates might not have even considered franchise or small business ownership in the past.

So, as many individuals explore their options, they will focus more and more of their efforts online. Franchisors must embrace this fact, and dedicate more resources to the internet and look to social media to complement, not replace, their traditional franchise marketing strategies. By doing so, they’ll realize multiple benefits for their entire system including:

– Creating or further developing brand awareness with franchise candidates and consumers alike
– Generating franchise leads that are genuinely interested in exploring what franchising and small business ownership has to offer, and how a particular concept may be the vehicle to achieve their goals and objectives
– Establishing an interactive environment of communications and information sharing that will become the backbone of future franchise relationships throughout franchise systems

Last, many franchise candidates previously viewed franchising and small business ownership as a way of achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams, regardless of what those may have been. Today, it’s more about goals and objectives, and necessities. We, as an industry need to fully realize this, and understand the mindset of today’s franchise candidate.

So, you want to do business with franchise companies…

First, and foremost, please understand that many, many business professionals approach the franchise industry each and every day attempting to sell them everything from insurance to office equipment to financial services. It’s an uphill battle that can be extremely rewarding if the trek is carefully and diligently navigated. That being said, the best approach is directly at the franchise organizations. By going direct, you create the opportunity of gaining the parent company’s endorsement and ultimately, accessibility to the entire franchise base. If you attempt to market to individual franchisees initially, you will spin your wheels and burn out faster than you could ever imagine.

In dealing with franchisors, I recommend a subtle, subliminal approach. You will need to become a resource for them to consider introducing you to their franchisees. That’s your biggest challenge. To conquer it I recommend contacting as many franchise publications and blogs as you can, and submit articles and posts. Of course, end them with your contact info, etc. This positions you as an expert in your field and as a resource for the industry.

You can also achieve expert status by being proactive on LinkedIn. Join as many franchise groups as you can. Keep in mind that direct selling is frowned upon in social networking forums. However, by responding to and posting discussions, you can establish your niche. By doing so, the sales intent will be subtle and subliminal, and effective. In time, I recommend you develop a webinar and invite the franchise community to attend. This is a great way to develop a target list.

Consider developing powerpoint presentations to attach to your LinkedIn profile that people can view at their leisure. Maybe a video on You Tube and post on various blogs and social networks. Improve your Facebook presence. Explore groups you’re interested in targeting and consider forming your own group and establish a business page as well. Check Twitter and integrate your messages there as well. Be sure to cross-promote wherever possible.

Basically, I’ve just outlined for you a marketing strategy that is integrated with social technology. It’s cost-effective and it works. Though, I must remind you to be patient as results take time as you “earn” the right to do business with your target audience. But when the orders start coming in, momentum can build very quickly. It can also be plenty of fun and you will meet many exciting and interesting people along the way.

This post was originally posted on this site January 2010


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One-size-fits-all Social Media Solutions… A false prophecy!

As could be expected, many within franchising entered the year determined to make things happen. As also could be expected, many turned to social media, believing it could be the answer to improving sales at the unit level, increasing interest in their franchise opportunity, and considered social media a low or no-cost alternative to what they’ve done in years past.

Unfortunately, many have failed in their social media efforts. The reasons? Well, many did not understand the ins and outs of social media marketing. Some didn’t even understand the basics of the most fundamental social media; Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And others failed because they were just not 100% committed to the effort. But, are these the real reasons they failed?

Well, as you may have guessed, the answer is, “No!” Ultimately, failure in social media is a direct result of failing to plan. Referring to the old adage, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail” causes me to shake my head in bewilderment at the statements posted in many of the online discussion groups recommending what clearly points to one-size-fits-all social media solutions. How much planning goes into a one-size-fits-all solution? How much commitment actually goes into a one-size-fits-all solution from both the consultant making the recommendation and the client that signs on? How much does a one-size-fits-all solution address outside the realm of the basic social media platforms? I don’t believe it’s ironic or a coincidence that the same questions I pose here are similar to the reasons many fail in their attempt to utilize social media.

Success in social media takes hard work. It takes a well-defined strategy based upon a clear, concise understanding of objectives and desired results. It takes a firm commitment of dedicated resources in both time and money. It takes knowing who the target audience is, where they congregate and communicate online, what messages need to be delivered to create interest, and seperately, to create a call for action. It takes full comprehension of a contingency plan based upon what if…? In essence, it takes planning!

Brian Solis, author the best-selling book on social media, Engage!, and Fast Company expert blogger, recently wrote an article on this very subject, In Social Media, Failing to Plan, is Planning to Fail. He wrote, “I’ve received a series of inbound requests for comments based on a report from Gartner, an IT analyst firm, that estimates as many as 70-percent of social media campaigns will fail in 2011. There are a series of discussions hitting the blogosphere and the Twitterverse exploring this very topic, some elementary and others on the right path. I contacted Gartner earlier this week and the problem is, that this data isn’t new at all. In fact, these discussions are fueled by information originally published in 2008 and in early 2010. Yet another example of the importance of fact-checking in the era of real-time reporting, yes, but, when I paused for a moment, I appreciated the timelessness of this discussion.

Are many of the social media programs in play yielding tangible results?

No …

Are they designed to impact the bottom line or are they tied to meaningful business outcomes?

No …

The truth is that you can’t fail in anything if success is never defined.”

To franchisors, I suggest, before choosing what appears to be a one-size-fits-all social media solution, take the time and expend the effort to develop a social media strategy that not only reflects your current status, but one that can evolve as your system grows. And, be sure to involve your franchisees as it is essential that local objectives to drive sales are integrated in the overall plan that may also include franchise development objectives. Keep in mind, many plans will include multiple objectives that may require that different social media be utilized for optimum results. And don’t forget to integrate your social media plan with your overall marketing and development plans!

Solis concludes his article, “Success is not a prescription. There isn’t one way to excel. That’s the point. Success requires definition based on intentions, goals, and mutual value … across the organization from the top down, bottom up, inside out and outside in. Success is defined departmentally and also at the brand level. There’s much to do …”

Read the complete article HERE.

* This post was originally published on this site July 2011


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